Cablegate: Lebanon: Pm Siniora Discusses Top Priorities With
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O 141621Z AUG 06
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5047
INFO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 0970
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RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 002620
NSC FOR ABRAMS/DORAN/SINGH/HARDING
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/13/2016
TAGS: IS LE MOPS PREL PTER SY
SUBJECT: LEBANON: PM SINIORA DISCUSSES TOP PRIORITIES WITH
Classified By: Jeffrey Feltman, Ambassador. Reason: Section 1.4 (b) a
1. (C) SUMMARY: On August 14, the first day of the
cessation of hostilities, Prime Minister Siniora convoked the
Ambassadors of the UNSC Perm-5. Siniora requested support to
provide temporary steel bridges that will help the return of
displaced Shia to the south, and to remove the "siege" from
the airport and seaports. Siniora did not respond
satisfactorily to concerns that the airport and seaports were
used to smuggle arms and people in the past. He noted that
he will work to strengthen security at the ports but did not
want to "go after ghosts" because he is confident that the
vast majority of smuggling occurs at the border with Syria.
Regarding the return of displaced Shia, Siniora stated that
providing temporary steel bridges is the most important thing
the P-5 nations could do. Ambassador Feltman cautioned that
temporary steel bridges could be destroyed by Israel if they
appear to be facilitating the resupply of weaponry to
Hizballah. Asked about disarming Hizballah, Siniora stressed
that the LAF, UNIFIL, and Hizballah could not all be "in the
same bed together" and that Hizballah would gradually
"disappear" from the south. He did not provide substantive
steps on how this would happen. Instead he will wait for
Speaker Berri, who is in talks with Hizballah, to report back
to him on August 15 or 16. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) Siniora opened the meeting with the Ambassadors from
the United States, France, United Kingdom, and Russia, along
with the Chinese charge, by thanking them for their efforts
on behlaf of the cessation of hostilities. He cautioned that
much work has yet to be done and described his immediate
priorities: facilitating the return of displaced Shia to the
south by providing temporary steel bridges and removing the
"siege" from the airport and seaports. Siniora requested
that the Ambassadors contact their respective governments to
identify how they can contribute to these priorities.
Failure to provide support would be a "dishonor to the
commitment" that the P-5 nations made to the GOL. Siniora
asked for timely responses.
Opening the Airports
and Sea Ports
3. (C) Ambassador Feltman asked Siniora to outline the
measures GOL is taking to prevent smuggling of arms and
persons via the airport and seaports, citing operative
paragraphs 14 and 15 of UNSCR 1701. Siniora immediately
stated that "99.9 percent" of the smuggling that occurs in
Lebanon is done by land via the border with Syria. No
smuggling occurs at the airport and seaport because the
smugglers are "not stupid." Siniora expressed confidence in
airport and seaport procedures to prevent smuggling. He
noted that he will work to strengthen security at the ports
but did not want to "go after ghosts" by expending excess
time and effort on this.
4. (C) French Ambassador Bernard Emie insisted that GOL must
reaffirm through explicit actions that the airport and
seaport will not return to the status quo of pre-July 12.
Ambassador Feltman told Siniora that part of the U.S. role is
to convince Israel that the airport and seaport will be
adequately monitored and controlled by the GOL, but the U.S.
itself must be convinced of the seriousness of GOL efforts.
At this point the U.S. cannot do so because it is not clear
what steps are being taken to deter the smuggling of arms and
persons. Ambassador Feltman declared that there is a
smuggling problem at the airport and it is something GOL must
think about now. British Ambassador James Watt added that
there is no serious thinking about securing the borders and
what was done in the past was obviously not effective.
5. (C) PM Siniora agreed that Lebanon could not afford to go
back to the staus quo, including at the airport and seaport.
He stated that the Lebanese people made "disinvestments of
their lives" in terms of human casualties, destroyed
infrastructure, and economic disaster. He said the GOL will
take the necessary measures on the airport and seaport, but
did not provide substantive answers. Interrupting the
discussion, he stepped aside to arrange a follow-on meeting
with Minister of Defense Murr and Acting Minister of Interior
Fatfat immediately following the meeting with the Ambassadors
to discuss this issue.
BEIRUT 00002620 002 OF 003
Return of Displaced
6. (C) Siniora predicted that providing temporary steel
bridges is the most important thing the P-5 nations could do
to help displaced Shia return home. He insisted that
immediate action was needed because only after those who can
return have done so, can the GOL get a sense of the number of
people who will not be able to go home.
7. (C) French Ambassador Emie asked who would be the point
of contact on this issue. Siniora advised that the Minister
of Public Works and Transport Mohamad Safadi would take the
lead and delegate responsibilities to other institutions as
needed. He also identified Lebanon's Committee for
Development and Reconstruction (CDR) as the lead agency in
reconstructing the large bridges that were destroyed.
Siniora explained that he has taken steps to reduce the
government bureaucracy for procuring contractors and
receiving external funds for reconstruction. The High Relief
Agency will be the sole GOL paying agent.
8. (C) Siniora expressed gratitude to any organization that
seeks to contribute to Lebanon's reconstruction efforts.
However, he insisted that each organization must define and
coordinate its activities with the United Nation's overall
coordinator David Shearer.
9. (C) Russian Ambassador Sergei Boukine asked if it was
safe for the displaced to begin returning to the south,
citing reports that thousands of Shia had already begun the
trek. Siniora announced that there would be a public
statement for people to be mindful of unexploded ordnance on
the roads. He acknowledged that the return of the displaced
immediately was something he and Parliament Speaker Berri
agreed to and people cannot be prevented from returning to
10. (C) Ambassador Feltman warned that the large number of
returning Shia could provide a human shield for Hizballah.
He added that Israel might become suspicious that Hizballah
fighters may be infiltrating the south along with the
displaced. He cautioned that temporary steel bridges could
be destroyed by Israel if they appear to be facilitating the
movement of Hizballah fighters with the returning displaced.
Worse, without any measures being taken to stop arms
smuggling from Syria, Hizballah might be resupplied across
the foreign-funded temporary bridges, making them a target
for Israeli attacks. Without addressing the weapons issue,
Siniora commented that both the facilitation and restriction
of displaced to return home would cause problems and that
allowing them to go home is the best option.
UNIFIL, LAF, and Hizballah
Won't Fit in the South
11. (C) Russian Ambassador Boukine asked when the LAF would
be deployed to the south. Siniora responded that it depends
on when UNIFIL-plus will be ready. Siniora said he recently
spoke with the leaders of countries that may contribute
soldiers, including Pakistan, Morocco, Indonesia, and France,
to ensure that they are committed to sending troops.
12. (C) Ambassador Boukine told Siniora that the presence of
Hizballah in the south remains a concern for contributing
nations. Siniora replied that UNSCR 1701 provides that a
cease-fire would come into effect when UNIFIL and LAF reach
south of the Litani River, regardless of Hizballah's
presence. Siniora stressed that the LAF, UNIFIL, and
Hizballah could not all be "in the same bed together" and
that Hizballah would gradually "disappear" from the south.
13. (C) When pressed on how Hizballah would disappear,
Siniora said Hizballah did not prevent the LAF or UNIFIL from
confiscating any weapons that they find. He added that
Speaker Berri is in talks with Hizballah and would report
back to him on August 15. Russian Ambassador Boukine
reaffirmed that Lebanon's internal problem with Hizballah
will continue to create new problems with Israel.
14. (C, Siniora acknowledged that there are many people in
Lebanon who will be upset if Lebanon returns to the status
BEIRUT 00002620 003 OF 003
quo ante with Hizballah. He assured the Ambassadors that he
has given Hizballah the option to disarm now, disarm after
the Israeli withdrawal, or hand over its weapons to LAF.
15. (C) At the end of the meeting Siniora pulled aside
Ambassador Feltman and told him that disarming Hizballah
would have been easier with the promise of Shebaa Farms. It
would have made "all the difference" he claimed. Ambassador
Feltman reminded Siniora that he should focus on procedures
to demonstrate that the airport and seaport are more secure
from smuggling so that they could be re-opened.
16. (C) Comment: The meeting with Siniora was stiff and
awkward, with the enigmatic Chinese and the Russian
Ambassador not as concerned with Hizballah and arms smuggling
as the P-3 representatives. While we found Siniora's answers
largely unsatisfactory, we will see him privately on Tuesday
or Wednesday for a more detailed, and frank, discussion. End